We Are All Salespeople

I’m that guy. Whenever I heard the word ‘sales’, I thought of the slick-haired, sleazy used car salesman or the heavy set bold and brutish negotiator that pressured you until you broke. Even worse, these are exact descriptions of salespeople that I have encountered more than once.

So, when it came to teaching sales and even having to sell for myself, I found the whole process intimidating and uncomfortable. I actively avoided it. To my detriment. I even had people telling me that I had what it takes to be a good salesperson. I took great offense! Until they explained why.

The fact is, though, that selling is a part of life. As with anything, we need to be careful of the stigma we attach to it, but it is essential and natural. There is even a book dedicated to this concept, ‘To Sell is Human’ (Daniel H. Pink). We spend a lot of our time trying to trade services, either for cash or for other services, or to engage others in ideas or suggestions.

So, what was it that made people believe I had the potential to be a great salesperson? Well, basically it was all the qualities that I had a firm (although misguided) belief that salespeople didn’t actually possess. Integrity, likeability and the ability to be genuine. Add to this some process around sales technique and you have an effective salesperson.

Here are the keys that helped me come to terms with the process:

  • Selling is natural

Once I realised that many of the interactions I had at work were versions of a sales process – understanding others, caring about their outcomes and problem solving creative ways to achieve an outcome – I became more comfortable with the idea. After all, as a HR person, I had to realise that even recruitment and resourcing was essentially a sales process

  • Build Relationship, Not Just a Sale

The best sales people show a genuine care and interest in the wellbeing of their client. This could be on a personal level or on a purely professional level. Business is built on trust and trust comes from integrity, rapport and the ability to deliver on your promises.

  • Dealing with a fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is a strong driver for many people and I have a few reasons to be particularly susceptible to this one. There comes a point when you realise that there is a make or break and you need to just go for it. There are also a number of techniques you can use to take the personal emotion and anxiety out of it and focus on the client or the outcomes.

  • There are good ones out there – go looking

I spent a few years in roles where I was actively pursued by sellers trying to get a foot in the door with a large organisation. Over that time I saw the process conducted in a number of different ways, everything from bully tactics to parading PYT’s in front of me assuming that it would sway the decision of a HR professional that had just finished running sessions on conduct and harassment in the workplace. Seriously, I couldn’t believe that tactics that were the butt of comedic sketches for 30 years were still being used. But in the midst of this, I saw genuine, principled operators who were focused on understanding real needs and getting the right outcomes for their potential client.

So, there is a process and a number of techniques that we can teach, but there is so much more to it than just a brash script a-la Wolf of Wall Street and a needy target. Sales is a service and a fundamental skill for any role, so brushing up on your skills will be one of the better uses of your time and energy for your work future.

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